Teenage Fanclub, Bandwagonesque 1991, Creation
What You Do to Me
I Don’t Know
Is This Music?
Hailing from just outside Glasgow, alt-rockers Teenage Fanclub got together in 1989. This is their third album, their first on Creation Records and the first to bring them any kind of commercial success. US Magazine Spin famously voted it the best album of 1991, ahead of Nirvana’s Nevermind.
With so much hype to live up to, opener The Concept is a ponderous start that never really seems to get going. December is an improvement with a nice melody and use of strings. What You Do to Me is very poppy but it’s well put together and the rhythm is tight. I Don’t Know is the best of the first half of the album. It’s very reminiscent of soon to be label mates Oasis. Star Sign, their most successful single in the US shows the influence the music of the 1960s rock bands had on the group. It’s a solid toe-tapper, the obvious American hit. Metal Baby continues in very much the same vein. The awesome guitar solo on Pet Rock makes it one of the highlights of the album. Both Sidewinder and Alcoholiday are solid but ultimately forgettable tracks.The use of echo and reverb on Guiding Star makes it the most interesting track for me, instrumental Is This Music? is again, solid enough and a nice way to close.
It’s an interesting album in that it is so unlike the other important British albums of this era, not part of a trend or scene and certainly not pushing any boundaries, but rather harking back to the music the band clearly liked as teenagers (honestly, they couldn’t have picked a better name for themselves). That’s obviously part of it’s charm but for me it leaves it in a weird no man’s land between the bands that came before and the rich seam of britpop that was about to open up after it - I have to admit to my bias here as well since the mid-90s were when I really started getting into music and, just like Teenage Fanclub, I look back on the bands of my personal golden era with the most rose-tinted of spectacles. It’s in no way a bad album, it’s just that you feel there could be a bit more to it, It doesn’t break new ground or change the game, but it’s perfectly fine for a Sunday afternoon. The Beatles and The Beach Boys loom large here, on Guiding Star they ask; “Don’t you think you’ve heard this song before?” and that lyric sums up the album for me, I do think that and maybe it was just a smidge better the last time.
The band have been influential though, Kurt Cobain once called them the best band in the world, Liam Gallagher called them the second best band in the world and other bands they have influenced include: Jimmy Eat World, Death Cab For Cutie, Radiohead and Sonic Youth.